In his 2013 letter to shareholders, CEO Marc Casper outlined the three pillars of growth on which Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO) is continuing to build its position as the "world leader in serving science." Those three customer-centric pillars -- technology, emerging markets, and customer value proposition -- have the potential to tap into massive growth markets and send Thermo Fisher's stock higher. Let's dig in and see why management has focused the business on these three points.
As the largest life-sciences supplier, Thermo Fisher throws nearly $400 million at R&D annually. And while growth in R&D expenses has far exceeded revenue growth over the past five years, Thermo Fisher has been able to maintain margins while investing for the future. The question now is how much return management can squeeze out of that R&D investment.
I think management is putting money in the right place: genomics. With personalized approaches to treating cancer primed to become more widespread, clinical genomics is a thriving growth industry. Thermo Fisher recently struck a deal with GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer to tap into that industry with next-generation sequencing platforms for oncology diagnostics. This deal closely mimics Thermo Fisher's biggest competition in the space, Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN), which is now partnered with AstraZeneca, Sanofi, and Johnson & Johnson to develop a universal panel of cancer biomarkers for research, clinical trial design, and companion diagnostic marketing.
Having barely scratched the surface, the market for clinical genomics is likely to grow large enough to support both giants of the industry. But more importantly, the focus on clinical tools helps to diversify Thermo Fisher away from academic research spending, which, with the sequester and NIH funding cuts, is an unstable revenue stream. Academic and clinical end markets account for 27% and 25% of revenue, respectively, and a shift in those numbers could signal a bright future for Thermo Fisher.
Economic growth in emerging markets, including China, is likely to increase demand for a wide range of Thermo Fisher's applied technologies. As economic quality of life improves in these countries, so, too, will a focus on issues in public health, environmental protection, and consumer protection. Thermo Fisher offers several devices used to measure air quality and food safety and is pushing hard to establish a foothold in China. Despite some short-term setbacks, those efforts appear to be paying off. In 2010, sales in Asia accounted for 12% of total revenue. At the end of 2013, that value grew to 18%, including 20% growth in China. With double-digit bookings growth in China in Q2, that growth should continue.
Customer value proposition
This past February, Thermo Fisher announced the acquisition of Life Technologies for $13.6 billion in cash. As the biggest fish in an ocean of life-sciences supplies that has seen continual consolidation, Thermo will gobble up one of its biggest peers in the space and a truly innovative partner. Together, the deal will bring Life's experience in genomics and applied-science tools into Thermo's massive distribution network of devices and consumables to create an integrated ecosystem of all things laboratory.
Now a leader in both genomic and proteomic technologies, Thermo can offer though the integration an unrivaled value to its customers by leveraging its scale and distribution network. For customers, that means convenience, consistency, and competitive pricing. For Thermo, it means further exploitation of the moat created by its "razor-and-blade" recurring consumables business.
All about execution
I believe that the acquisition of Life Technologies was a strong move by management to expand Thermo's horizons while strengthening the moat of its core business. Now it will be up to the company to execute on its goals -- a task more easily said than done. The strategy may be well conceived to create shareholder value, but some of the biggest risks are yet to be overcome. In the next dive into Thermo Fisher Scientific, we'll ask how those risks can stand in the way of further growth.
Seth Robey owns shares of Illumina. The Motley Fool recommends Illumina and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.